(Decatur, Ind./Bellmont) scored a career-high 24 points and the Valparaiso University men's basketball team snapped a two-game losing streak with a thrilling 80-77 win over Charlotte Saturday night at Halton Arena in Charlotte, N.C.
The hosts turned around what looked like a Valpo rout with a huge run midway through the second half, cutting a 15-point Valpo lead to three in six and a half minutes. After the teams traded buckets for a stretch, the 49ers took a 64-63 lead with 5:57 left, their first lead since the midway through the first half.
After a De'Angelo Alexander three-point play put Charlotte up two, Valpo roared back in front with consecutive buckets from Mohamed Kone
(Lyon, France/Jean Paul Saltre) and Ali Berdiel
(Ponce, Puerto Rico/Andrean), and a pair of Berdiel free throws. After Alexander missed a three-pointer on the next Charlotte possession, Dan Oppland
(Saint Louis, Mo./Whitfield) buried a three from the right corner to put Valpo in front 74-67.
The 49ers were not done, however, making a few very nice defensive stops and pulling within 74-72 on a Leemire Goldwire layup with 25 seconds left. After Berdiel was fouled with 18 ticks on the clock, the senior calmly stepped up and drained both free throws. With the lead back down to two, it was Colclasure's turn to come up big at the line, making a pair to put Valpo up four. Those free throws proved huge when Mitchell Baldwin came down a buried a triple to make it 78-77. But the Crusaders held, as Berdiel sank another pair of cold-blooded free throws with under three seconds left and Baldwin's three-pointer at the buzzer came up short.
Head Coach Homer Drew shook up the starting lineup for the third-straight game, giving the struggling Colclasure his first start of the season. The senior, who came into the game 2-of-15 from three-point range, made Drew look brilliant, making 8-of-9 shots, 4-of-4 triples and scoring 10 more points Satuday than he had all season coming in.
Oppland finished with 19 points and led Valpo with eight rebounds. The Crusaders out-rebounded Charlotte, one of the nation's best rebounding teams, 35-29. Kone finished with 14 points and six rebounds and Ron Howard
(Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) added 11. Valpo shot 50% from the floor, made 8-of-18 three-pointers and hit all 12 of their free throw attempts.
The 49ers, riding a four-game winning streak heading into the game, came out firing on all cylinders and opened a 14-5 lead five minutes in. From there, the Valpo defense tightened the screws, holding Charlotte to four points in the next 11 minutes as the Crusaders built a 30-19 lead that would eventually grow as big as 15.
At the break, the Brown and Gold had forced 12 turnovers, out-rebounded the hosts 19-16, shot 48.6% from the floor, and led the game 40-31. Oppland and Colclasure paced Valpo with 10 first half points each, while Kone and Howard chipped in eight. Alexander had 17 of Charlotte's 31 first-half points.
Alexander led Charlotte (5-4) with a career-high 32 points and Baldwin added 15. The Crusaders held Naismith Award Finalist Curtis Withers, who was averaging a double-double, to seven points and seven rebounds. Charlotte shot the ball brilliantly behind Alexander's 11-of-18, making 48.3% of their field goals and 13-of-23 three-pointers.
Valpo (4-2) will get the next eight days off, as they prepare for their toughest game of the season, Sunday, December 18 at 7:00 p.m. at top-ranked Duke. That game will be televised nationally on Fox Sports Net and as always can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.